She beat most cancers at 10. Now she’s set to be the youngest American in area
Written by Kenneth Chang
Hayley Arceneaux, 29, had hoped this could be the yr that she would full her goal of visiting all seven continents earlier than she turned 30.
She is not going to have time to try this, although.
She goes to area.
Arceneaux, a doctor assistant at St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, will likely be certainly one of 4 folks on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Scheduled to launch late this yr, it’s to be the primary crewed mission to circle Earth wherein nobody on board is knowledgeable astronaut.
“I did ask, ‘Am I going to get a passport stamp for going to space?’” Arceneaux stated. “But I don’t think I’m going to. So I’m just going to draw a star and the moon in one of my passports.”
This journey is spearheaded by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who introduced in January that he had purchased the rocket launch from SpaceX, the area firm began by Elon Musk. Isaacman stated on the time that he needed the mission to be greater than a jaunt for the superwealthy, and that he had given two of the 4 obtainable seats to St. Jude.
One in all them will go to a random winner in a sweepstakes contest to boost cash for the hospital, which treats kids at no cost and develops cures for childhood cancers and different illnesses.
The opposite seat, Isaacman stated, will likely be stuffed by a front-line well being care employee at St. Jude, somebody who symbolizes hope.
On Monday, St. Jude officers and Isaacman revealed that Arceneaux was the particular person that they had chosen.
Arceneaux may turn into the youngest American ever to journey to orbit. She may even be the primary particular person with a prosthetic physique half to go to area. She was a affected person at St. Jude almost 20 years in the past, and as a part of her remedy for bone most cancers, steel rods changed elements of the bones in her left leg.
Previously, that might have saved her firmly on the bottom, unable to satisfy NASA’s stringent medical requirements for astronauts. However the introduction of privately financed area journey has opened the ultimate frontier to some individuals who had been beforehand excluded.
Dr. Michael Neel, the orthopedic surgeon who put in Arceneaux’s prosthesis, stated that though having synthetic leg bones signifies that she can’t play contact sports activities on Earth, they need to not restrict her on this SpaceX trek.
“It shows us that the sky is not the limit,” Neel stated. “It’s the sky and beyond. I think that’s the real point of all this, that she has very little limitations as far as what you can do. Unless you’re going to play football up there.”
Arceneaux stated she hoped to supply inspiration to sufferers at St. Jude.
“They’ll be able to see a cancer survivor in space, especially one that has gone through the same thing that they have,” she stated. “It’s going to help them visualize their future.”
Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president of ALSAC, the fundraising group for St. Jude, stated of Arceneaux, “If anybody was emblematic of the notion of hope, it was Hayley.”
Arceneaux herself didn’t discover out she would have a seat on the rocket till early January. Officers on the hospital had vaguely informed her that there was a chance they needed to speak to her about. She stated she had thought that “maybe it would be a commercial or maybe giving a speech somewhere.”
As an alternative, it was a chance to be an astronaut.
“I even kind of laughed,” Arceneaux stated. “I was like, “What? Yes. Yes, please, that would be amazing.” She then added, “Let me talk to my mom.”
Her mother didn’t object.
Arceneaux walked into St. Jude for the primary time in 2002. She was 10. Not lengthy earlier than, she had earned her black belt in taekwondo, however she was complaining of ache in her leg. Her mom noticed a bump protruding over the left knee. The pediatrician within the small city of St. Francisville, Louisiana, the place they lived, not removed from Baton Rouge, informed them that it appeared like a cancerous tumor.
“We all fell apart,” Arceneaux stated. “I remember just being so scared because at age 10, everyone I had known with cancer had died.”
At St. Jude, docs supplied the excellent news that the most cancers had not unfold to different elements of her physique. Arceneaux went by way of chemotherapy, an operation to put in the prosthetic leg bones and lengthy classes of bodily remedy.
Even at that younger age, bald from chemotherapy, Arceneaux was serving to at fundraisers for St. Jude. The following yr, Louisiana Public Broadcasting honored her with certainly one of its Younger Heroes awards.
“When I grow up, I want to be a nurse at St. Jude,” she stated in a video proven on the ceremony in 2003. “I want to be a mentor to patients. When they come in, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was little, and I’m doing good.’”
Final yr, Arceneaux was employed by St. Jude. She works with kids with leukemia and lymphoma, comparable to a teenage boy she talked with lately.
“I shared with him that I also lost my hair,” Arceneaux stated. “I told him: ‘You can ask me anything. I’m a former patient. I’ll tell you the truth, anything you want to know.’ And he said, ‘Will you really tell me the truth?’ And I said yes.”
His burning query: “Are you the one going to space?”
Arceneaux needed to dodge. “I said, ‘Well, we’ll see who gets announced,’” she stated. “But I think he knew because then he and his dad were like “Yeah!” and high-fived.”
Arceneaux and Isaacman have visited SpaceX’s headquarters in California thrice to satisfy with engineers and to start out planning the journey. Not like the missions that SpaceX flies for NASA, this one is not going to go to the Worldwide House Station however will as an alternative orbit Earth for 3 or 4 days earlier than splashing down off the Florida coast.
“She’s got an adventurous spirit,” Isaacman stated of Arceneaux. “And now she gets to travel to the stars, which is pretty cool.”
It’s going to nonetheless be a number of extra weeks earlier than they know who their companions will likely be.
The St. Jude sweepstakes, publicized in a tv business that was broadcast in the course of the Tremendous Bowl two weeks in the past, will run by way of the top of the month. It has thus far raised about $9.5 million. That appears to fall far wanting the $100 million Isaacman has himself dedicated to St. Jude, or the general purpose of $200 million. However Isaacman and Shadyac stated that the fundraising effort would transcend the sweepstakes and that they had been happy with the progress.
“This is going to be a campaign that’s going to extend all the way until the launch,” Shadyac stated.
The sweepstakes is structured in a means that successfully limits the dimensions of donations. One entry is free. A minimal donation of $10 buys 100 entries, and every further greenback donated buys 10 extra entries, as much as $1,000 for 10,000 entries.
There have been some pricier choices obtainable that at the moment are offered out. For instance, Isaacman will give a donor who contributed $100,000 a trip within the Russian-built MiG-29 jet fighter that he owns. The donor may even get a visit to look at the launch at Kennedy House Heart in Florida. However that donor nonetheless has simply 10,000 entries within the sweepstakes, the identical as somebody who donated $1,000.
Isaacman stated this was a deliberate selection to stop a rich particular person from attempting to snap up the grand prize of a visit to area by shopping for thousands and thousands of entries.
“Is it going to represent all of the people of Earth and not just rich white guys?” Isaacman stated.
The fourth SpaceX seat will go to the winner of a contest sponsored by Isaacman’s firm, Shift4, which sells credit-card-processing terminals and point-of-sale methods to eating places and different companies. The “Shark Tank”-like competitors requires entrepreneurs to design a web based retailer utilizing Shift4’s software program after which publish a video on Twitter describing their enterprise.
As of final week, fewer than 100 folks had submitted full entries. “It means if you had made a Shift4 shop and entered it, you’ve got pretty amazing odds,” Isaacman stated.